Agent of change / Leader of change

Change is the new constant

I’m not always sure that the world outside of where I am is real. I read so often on other admin blogs of how harmoniously teachers  are working with technology, don’t seem to have any teachers who resist change and are seemlessly addressing the needs of all their students and are schools of example. In my 20 years, I’ve experienced this at one school where I taught as a  teacher. And, by no means was it easy, seamless or without all kinds of struggles and difficulty. In fact, as a teacher, it was very hard work as we worked together to match our teaching with the current research on learning and teaching, reach out to our community, develop parent-partners and enhance our teaching through technology integration. It was late nights working on, at that time, Adapting for the learners, after-school meetings in grade alike groups, student support meetings, parent contacts and developing a culture that had a high expectation for student learning. That was more than 10 years ago and, in all my stints as a vice-principal and principal, I’ve encountered only a few other schools that had such characteristics. They are places where teachers, like those with whom I taught, had a very good understanding of lifelong learning, were themselves lifelong learners and were able to bring that to the classroom. They understood that it was the process of learning that was key, not the grade. They were determined, patient, risk-takers and thick skinned.

My experience since that time, with teachers, even online, is that change is very, very difficult, takes a great deal of time and requires someone who has is willing to move people forward through the process. Granted, many of the people who will read this will understand and “get it” but not all of them are teachers and many have backgrounds that are not rooted in the classroom but, instead, are supporters such as I have become as an administrator. I do teach but I am not a full-time teacher and my main responsibility is supporting the learning of the students and staff in the entire school and trying to facilitate and secure the resources and personnel to assist teachers and students to achieve their best.

Agent of Change vs Leader of Change

My role, in many of the schools where I have been, has been to be an agent of change. In fact, in some places, my role was to start the change process and then allow someone else to continue. I’ve been asked to start change, introduce new ideas and promote new ways of doing things. In fact, this has been my role since I began my administrative career, being an agent of change.

This has changed with my new position. I will be ushering in change but this time, instead of being a mere agent, my role is to lead. What’s the difference? Well, as an agent of change, you are working towards bringing about a change in practices, preceptions and product, starting people to see things from a different perspective and sometimes pushing people out of their comfort zone but with the idea that further changes will take place later on and, in fact, you will not see how things work out. Being a leader requires a different take on the situation. As an agent, the main goal is to begin the change process on its way. As a leader, its seeing the whole process through, from defining the vision of where all of you are going to working through to the end, all the while being very aware of where the people you are working with have been and moving them along the change continuum. It means that you have to manage the change process and help people with the process, especially if some are very resistant to change. It’s being able to remain calm and focused on the vision even when it seems it’s all coming apart – and some days it truly does feel like this. But, it’s seeing the appreciation in people’s smiles and their genuine enthusiasm as they begin to recognize the fruits of their labours.

I’ve had the great pleasure to revisit a number of places where I was the agent and I’ve seen what is taking place now, happy to see that the process continues with someone else.  Not that the goal is ever reached but overcoming the initial inertia is huge. For any administrators that have ever had to do that, you know how difficult that can be. Sometimes, without the support, it doesn’t happen. For anyone who is working in a situation where that change inertia has been overcome, you have someone, somewhere along the way, who expended a great deal of energy to bring about that initial movement. For those who have been lucky enough to start  new without having to overcome such inertia, keep things rolling!


  1. Reply

    Kelly, I think that the messy and inconsistent take up of the change process is far more widespread than the blogs you reference would have things appear. It’s just that people prefer to blog about their good news and success rather than show the full, more realistic gritty picture. A place that is undergoing change is a heady mix of excitement, pressure and sometimes paranoia – I know that at my own school that even though the school is pushing forward as a community, not all participants are at the front forging. Some are dragged along by others and a small handful actively resist either through sabotage or willful inertia. Schools also have new staff come in and they often find it hard to adjust to new expectations and question the need for such an aggressive change process. I’ve often remarked to some of my colleagues who watch the newcomers struggle that it’s a little bit like all being on a treadmill. Those who started off on the change treadmill have had time to adjust to the increasing pace, while others new in feel like they jumped on the same treadmill and had to sprint straightaway just to keep up. But then many of them are happy to be in a new, progressive environment when they have been teaching in schools where things had slowed to a crawl in maintenance mode.

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